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Western tourists kidnapped in India

July 6, 1995
12:15 PM EDT

NEW DEHLI, India (CNN) -- Indian police are searching a disputed area in Jammu and Kashmir state, where four Western tourists are believed held hostage by militant separatists. The tourists, two American men and two British men, were part of a group of eight foreigners on a trekking excursion. The militants kidnapped the travelers from their campsite on July 4th, later releasing the wives of three of the hostages and a Canadian man.

Those still in captivity have been identified as John Donald and Donald Freid Hutchins of the United States and Keith Monhingam and Paul Well of Britain.

The militants gave the freed individuals a handwritten statement with a demand: the remaining hostages would not be released until Indian authorities freed 21 militant separatists from jail. The note was signed by a previously unknown group called al Paran. However, authorities believe the militant group Harkat ul Ansar may in fact be responsible. The list of prisoners' names appears to be the clue.

This isn't the first time tourists have been caught up in the dispute over the region of Kashmir that borders India and Pakistan. Last year, Western tourists kidnapped in New Delhi were freed in a raid that killed two policemen and a militant. Also last year, the Harkat ul Asar kidnapped two British hikers in Indian-controlled Kashmir, but later released them. The separatists are battling the Indian government over the Muslim enclave of Kashmir, where they want to create either a separate Muslim state or join Muslim Pakistan.

Western tourists have been advised by their embassies not to travel to Jammu and Kashmir state, an area known for its scenic beauty.



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